Your Loss, Your Gain

You’re a runner, so the chances are pretty good that you’re not one of the growing number of obese people in this country. Rather, you’re probably one of the healthiest specimens your doctor sees. But this doesn’t mean that you’re satisfied with your current weight. Or that you’re not interested in losing a few pounds in order to become healthier, feel better and run stronger.

If weight loss is your goal, we have some tips for you – 30 of them, in fact.

Not all of these weight-loss tips will be right for you, but we’re sure you’ll discover several that can help you reach – and then maintain – your goal weight.

  1. Exercise often You may already have this one covered, but you should know that people are more likely to stick with their exercise programme if they exercise more frequently for shorter periods of time than less frequently for longer periods. It’s been shown that an exercise programme consisting of daily half-hour sessions works better for long-term weight loss than one consisting of hour-long sessions done just once or twice a week.
  2. Remove certain foods from your diet This is something that men appear to do better than women: they stop having a dessert, they quit nibbling on crisps or cut back on beer, lowering their total calorie consumption per day, which leads to weight loss. But if you’re a woman, give it a try anyway – it works.
  3. Eat all foods, but limit the quantity Unlike the last, this tactic is generally used more effectively by woman than men. With this method, you decrease calories by eating the same foods that you normally would, just in smaller portions.
  4. Increase your carbohydrate intake The body’s most efficient energy source is carbohydrate. It’s the equivalent of high-octane fuel. Burning fat for energy is less efficient, and you don’t want to burn protein, since you may be cannibalising your own muscles. You’ll find it easier to run if your muscles are well fueled with carbohydrates. This equips you to run farther or faster (or both), which will boost calorie and fat burning.
  5. Don’t eliminate all fat Some dietary fat is necessary for good health. Also, certain fats improve the taste of food. If your diet is so bland that the fun goes out of eating, you’ll find it much harder to stay on track with your weight-loss plan.
  6. Learn the magic numbers Most nutritionists agree that the proper balance of nutrients for good health comes from a calorie balance of approximately 55 per cent carbohydrate, 20 per cent protein and 25 per cent (or less) fat. Stray too far from this 55-20-25 diet, and you’ll find it hard to maintain any weight loss.
  7. Seek a dietician’s help It’s not easy to determine what foods to eat to achieve the 55-20-25 ratio, so consider calling in a professional. A registered dietician can guide you in your food choices and fine-tune your weight-loss programme. To find a dietician near you, consult the British Dietetic Association.
  8. Avoid fad diets Weight-reducing plans that have you radically changing your eating habits usually don’t work – at least in the long run. Sure, you can lose weight quickly, but most of the time it just comes right back.
  9. Don’t use diet pills They don’t even work very well. Unless you’re clinically obese and at high medical risk (you have diabetes or high blood pressure, for example), you should not be taking diet pills. They don’t eliminate the main reasons people overeat, which are often psychological.
  10. Choose high-intensity activities As a runner, you’ve already done this. The higher the exercise’s intensity, the more calories you’ll burn. Walking and running each burn around 100 calories per mile, but you can cover more miles in the same time by running rather than walking.
  11. Don’t overtrain Running too many miles increases your injury risk. If you’re injured, you can’t run. If you can’t run, you’ll be missing out on your favourite calorie-burning activity. Running too much can also leave you so fatigued that you burn fewer calories when not exercising, as you’ll find yourself sitting around more. To allow your body to adapt, increase your mileage and intensity gradually.
  12. Record your progress Mark your weight loss on a calendar or in a diary. A visible record of your success can help to motivate you to continue. It will show that, despite occasional ups and downs, you’re making steady progress.
  13. Establish realistic goals Want to lose 10lbs in 10 days? Forget it. It’s not going to happen. Unless you virtually starve yourself, that is, in which case those 10lbs will surely return. Meanwhile you’ll have lost muscle, which may later be replaced by fat. Very obese people sometimes can lose a lot of weight (because they have more to lose), but for most of us, a goal of 1-2lbs a week is more realistic.
  14. …And write them down Having goals and putting them down on paper is a simple yet powerful method for sticking to the task. “I will increase my running mileage by one mile a week for the next 10 weeks” would be one example of a clearly stated goal.
  15. Ask for a doggy bag Everyone knows that the dog will never see it, but you don’t have to eat every bit of food on your plate. Many restaurants offer over-large portions as a matter of course. Either push the plate away or take the food home.
  16. Think before you drink Around 20 per cent of your calories come from fluids, and this number often goes up in warmer weather. Changing the fluids you drink, therefore, can have a big effect on your total calorie intake. For example, fruit juices and fizzy drinks are great thirst quenchers, but they come with lots of calories, too. Try substituting lower-calorie sports drinks, or go with cold water, the ultimate no-calorie thirst quencher.
  17. Don’t skip meals It seems an effective strategy to skip entire meals instead of cautiously cutting calories. Unfortunately, you run the risk of compromising your health by eliminating important nutrients. Skipping a meal can also make you so hungry that you pig out on high-fat foods during your next meal.
  18. Plan your snacking It’s all right to eat between meals, as long as you do so in a controlled manner. Fruit, energy bars, a pot of yoghurt, half a sandwich… these are all great snacks. With nutritious snacks available, you’ll be less likely to grab high-fat alternatives on impulse.
  19. Mix it up Not only is eating a varied diet more fun and interesting, it’s healthier, too. Recent studies suggest that when people eat lots of different foods, they generally take in fewer calories.
  20. Remember that a low fat content doesn’t always mean low calories We’ve certainly mentioned this one before, but it’s worth re-emphasising. Many foods marketed as low-fat or even fat-free don’t necessarily have fewer calories. In a recent study, people who consumed a significant portion of their calories from low-fat foods ate the same number of total calories as those who ate no low-fat foods at all.
  21. Understand genetics Your family history frequently dictates your physique. If your parents are big, you’ll probably be big. You can’t change this. You may never be as skinny as the featherweight runners who win races, but you can maintain a reasonable and healthy weight for your particular frame.
  22. Shop with a list Avoid impulse purchases and impulse eating. Impulsive food choices often prove to be high-calorie ones. If you shop with a list, you’ll be less likely to grab high-calorie foods off the shelf. In the same vein, don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry.
  23. Park and walk Not all of your exercise has to come on the running trails. Seek ways to burn a few calories here, a few there. Use the stairs instead of the lift, or park your car further away from your office. In other words, don’t make exercise an all-or-nothing endeavour – blend it into your day.
  24. Seek support It’s easier to succeed at weight control if you surround yourself with people who applaud your efforts, rather than those who (even subconsciously) might not want you to lose weight. Join a running club or attend group sessions (even if the others are faster). Many runners who are slim now once had weight problems themselves.
  25. Find a friend You’re more likely to exercise – and lose weight – if you train with a friend or group. Knowing that your friend will be disappointed if you miss a session will motivate you to stick to your programme. And you can celebrate your progress together.
  26. Identify weak points Analyse your eating habits. When are you most likely to grab an extra snack? Midday, when your energy is low? During TV commercials? Determining when and how you slip up will allow you to devise ways to avoid this behaviour.
  27. Get a coach Elite athletes aren’t the only people to benefit from coaching. You will, too. Perhaps you can find someone to help supervise your exercise programme. Okay, not everybody can afford to go one-on-one, but you can join a running club where coaching is available. To find a club, visit the UK Athletics Club Website Directory.
  28. Schedule your days off If your food or exercise regimen is relatively strict, schedule a day each week when you don’t exercise and don’t keep such a close eye on your food intake. The occasional day off creates a ‘release valve’ that can make a weight-control programme that much more palatable, and thus sustainable.
  29. Try some speedwork You already know that speedwork (faster-paced running, usually done over shorter distances) is a great way to improve performance. It’s also a great calorie-burner. You shouldn’t run fast every day, but occasional high-intensity training can help with weight loss (a half-dozen short bursts of 60-90 seconds will do the job).
  30. Try strength training As with speedwork, strength training can boost your metabolism. In fact, one study showed that strength training can boost metabolism for up to 15 hours after the session. It also builds muscle tissue, which is better at burning calories than fat tissue.